The girl from São Paulo

Dana Hall has a variety of students from many countries, but Ana Lebl ‘26, is the only girl from Brazil. 26 from China, 7 from Korea, 2 from Thailand, 2 from Japan, but only one from Sao Paulo.

Born in São Paulo, Ana is an outgoing and sociable girl who is involved in dance, specifically ballet, the Shades and ISA clubs, and enjoys hanging out with friends in her free time. 

Her first year at Dana Hall, she said, “With all of Dana’s international students, they almost always have multiple students from that country who stick together. I tried to find comfort in that. I was friends with only the international students and I really trapped myself in that. It felt the same when I tried being friends with only day students.” It was hard for her to connect with people on a cultural level because she felt like an “alien”. She says she felt even more outcast when people misunderstood or made stereotypes about her culture. “I’ve had people ask me, ‘what tribe are you from?’ or ‘why are you white?’, which really makes me feel more different”, she says. In reality, Brazil is one of the most diverse countries in the world, holding dozens of ethnic groups.

However, she now thinks coming to Dana was the best decision she’s ever made. “I’m so different from who I was before.” Some of the pros of being an international student have been the “amazing opportunities”, “experiencing a different culture”, and “learning English”. Ana thinks of it as a “blessing to get to be so independent.” 

Before Dana Hall, she had been going to the same school since she was three years old, along with her brothers and cousins. Ana says, “Everybody knew me for my family and I wanted to leave my school. I’ve always known I wanted to go to boarding school since I watched Wild Child. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.” In Portuguese, there’s no direct translation for boarding school, because they aren’t common in Brazil. So, whenever Ana tells people she attends an “internato”, some people will look at her confused because that could mean hospital or asylum.

Her message to other international students struggling with feeling like an alien is, “Don’t abandon your culture and keep in contact with people back home. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. Go out, have fun, explore, make friends. It’s not going to be a smooth path, but it’s definitely an amazing journey.” 

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